Double-double trouble

Andre Patterson recently became the first Tennessee basketball player since Ron Slay (2002-03) to record three double-doubles in a row. More importantly, his sterling play helped the Vols win all three games, boosting their overall record to 14-3 and their league mark to 5-1, best in the SEC East.

Is he surprised? Not terribly.

"I didn't think we'd be first in the conference but I knew we wouldn't have a season like last year or the year before," he said recently. "I knew we were going to win some ballgames because a lot more guys were ready to step up.

"Last year we were ready to step up but we didn't have the opportunity. We didn't have a coach that believed in us. A coach can make a lot of difference. When you let players make plays and don't put all the responsibility on just one player – give everybody the same responsibility – people play better that way."

The Vols played a mediocre first half last Saturday against South Carolina, largely because their chief inside threat (Patterson) and their chief outside threat (Chris Lofton) struggled mightily.

Patterson made just 1 of 4 first-half field goal tries with two shots rejected. He also committed four first-half turnovers. Lofton sank just 1 of 6 first-half field goal tries, including 0 of 4 from 3-point range. Fortunately for Tennessee, both players got going after the break. Patterson contributed 11 second-half points and 6 rebounds (3 on the offensive end). Lofton scored 16 second-half points and went 4 for 7 from beyond the arc.

"We just played more solid, spread the floor out like Coach said," Patterson recalled. "And we cut our turnovers down. I had four the first half. That's one of my key things – cutting down on my turnovers. And when C-Lo (Lofton) is shooting the way he was shooting, it's going to be hard to beat us."

Another key to the game was that Patterson continued working for inside shots, even after having a couple of early attempts batted back into his face.

"Yeah, I was getting good shots," he recalled. "I should've pump-faked but I rushed a little bit and got blocked a couple of times. The second half I took my time a little more, got under control and was able to score."

Andre Patterson has emerged as one of UT's most valuable players in the past two weeks. Since playing a season-low 13 minutes in a Jan. 18 loss at Memphis, he has been incredibly productive – 12 points and 10 rebounds vs. Florida, 13 points and 11 rebounds vs. Mississippi State, 13 points and 12 rebounds vs. South Carolina.

So, how does it feel to have three double-doubles in a row?

"It feels good," he said. "I should've been doing this a long time ago. But better late than never."

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